Trees #1 Review
A heady science fiction issue that offers a grim look into a future where aliens refuse to view humanity as intelligent life.
Some of the residents of Beijing and their actions may not be palatable to sensitive readers.
Ten years after they landed and the trees took over and nobody recognized human beings are intelligent this is what happened.
Ten years ago extraterrestrials came to earth and left their mark in the way of gigantic metal so-called “trees”. From what the reader can gather the trees have taken over the world and utterly reorganized the cities’ landscapes wherever they have landed. So opens Trees #1. We first see them land in Rio de Janeiro and spew forth toxic waste, killing humans for kilometers around.
In New York City Vince wants to be mayor. Not because New York City is any longer a spectacular place, but because he grew up in Lower Manhattan and ten years after the catalyst of Trees #1 that means that he witnessed the apathy the police and the destruction of a once great metropolis. Vince reveals to his doubting advisor that if he gets to be mayor he will be able to decide what is normal and he will be able to choose the police commissioner. This storyline in particular speaks to the theme of Trees #1 – jump-staring change in order to return the status quo to something like it was before.
Before being, presumably, something like the world in which the reader exists. In many of his books Ellis challenges the reader to examine the world they live within by presenting them with a stranger more dangerous alternate on the page. Trees #1 is making a play for his most well-executed effort yet and it’s only on its first issue. He has taken our world and presented it in a frightening parody.
Trees #1 skips next over to China – to a little city called Beijing. No longer a valiant city (much like New York City), Beijing has been classified as a “Special Cultural Zone” and is walled off from the rest of the country. A young man named Tian Chenglei arrives at the city gate from a wee rural village to learn about art and drawing from this well-protected cultural hub. The guard cautions him that things may not be as he expects and that failure is nothing to be ashamed of. This certainly seems like a bleak perspective … until it turns out to be a completely apt observation. I’ll leave the seedier details out of this review, but, for all its artistic merits Beijing has deteriorated more than Tian could ever have imagined.
The third story we glimpse only briefly: a settlement inside the arctic circle. There are glimpses of characters and ideas here that have the potential to play out and become the most science fiction-y part of the storyline. For the brevity of our exposure to this plotline I found it the most engaging part of Trees #1.
Warren Ellis is writing the sort of story he has told in the past, as touched on above. He presents the reader with themes and issues from their real-world life in an expansive comic book world. The restraint he shows in Trees #1 speaks not only to his continued growth as a writer and mastery of the comic book format of storytelling, but to his potential to reach out to an even wider group of readers/fans than he already has.
The nuggets we are given of story, world, character and plot are fascinating and Trees is shaping up to be an amazing series.
Jason Howard is world-building throughout the panels of Trees #1. He takes the world the Ellis has penned and brings it to life on a staggering scale. The destruction we witness early on in the issue is brutal and sudden – just as the reader would imagine it playing out in real life. The cities featured (Rio, New York, Beijing), feel as big on the page as we know them to be. Every location is definitive and is very much a character in and of itself that bolsters the decisions and actions of the people living within them.
The grandeur that Howard is able to draw add to the staggering height of the titular “trees”. The alien devices feel starkly out of place, though from certain angles (in particular when we see the squatters inhabiting them), they are strangely beautiful.
Howard is absolutely the man for this job going by what I read in Trees #1 and readers should look forward to his expanding work in coming issues.
YOU’RE GOING TO READ THIS
If Warren Ellis’ name isn’t enough for you to pick up Trees #1 then the hype that it is garnering is certain to. This is a well plotted, well executed issue that presents the reader with a futurist view of what we could do to our own world. It’s heady. Read it.